This Is What I’ve Learned About Being Beautiful

This Is What I’ve Learned About Being Beautiful

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Yesterday, I did something I don’t normally do: I stepped on the scale. I don’t know what compelled me to go upstairs, dig out that digital monstrosity, and place my bare, un-manicured feet on its dusty surface, but I did. And then I took a deep breath.

And then I looked down.

I was shocked by the number I saw. It was upsetting, it was discouraging, and it was disheartening. I was sad. But the number didn’t upset me for reasons you may think. The number didn’t bother me because it was “too big” or “too small.”

The problem with the number was I was looking at it.

The problem with the number was that I decided to “weigh in” at all.

You see, we live in a numerical world: a world where our worth is defined by digits and figures. Think about it. Your beauty is defined by your waistband and by the tag on your bra. Your value is defined by the size of your paycheck, by the clothes you wear, and the car you drive. And your worth — the strength of your relationships and your sense of self — is defined by the number of likes your Facebook statuses garner or by the number of “friends” you have. And I vowed years ago — after battling with an eating disorder and body dysmorphic disorder — to give up on the BS. I vowed years ago to just be me: to embrace all aspects of me.

Yet here I was on the scale.

Here I was getting upset.

Here I was passing judgment, on my body and myself. The same body which rebounded — quickly and completely — from spinal surgery 16 years ago. The same body which birthed a beautiful baby girl three years ago. And the same body, the same “thick thighs,” which have carried me thousands of miles and across dozens of 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and full-marathon finish lines.

Instead of honoring my body, I was minimizing it.

Instead of praising my body, I was critiquing it.

And instead of loving myself, I was chasing ideals, unattainable and unrealistic ideals, because of a number — the number on my scale.

And I know what you may be thinking: “You are beautiful. You are skinny. What do you have to be worried about? You already have the ‘perfect’ body.” But perfection is all about perception, and where you see a cinched waist and cute little ass, I see a good, supportive pair of skinny jeans. You know, jeans which hide pock marks and dimples. Jeans which hold up sagging skin. Where you see an athletic frame, I see a boyish one. I see legs which are too muscular to be “ladylike.” I see bones which jut out in all the wrong places. I see a flat chest. And where you see the “perfect body” — where you see a size 0 body — I see flaws. I find fault.

And that is the problem, not just with me but with us all. Not just with me but with our beauty-centric society. You know, the one which glorifies filters and Photoshop and is constantly trying to sell us on lotions and potions and diets and surgeries to make us look 10 years younger or to lose 10 pounds in 10 days.

And make no mistake: I’m not naïve. I know I cannot change the world with one blog post. I know I cannot change our culture with a status update, but I am hoping to change the mind of one girl, one young lady, or one woman who hates themselves because of a number — because of the tag on their pants or a few digits on a scale. I am hoping to change the mind of one person who avoids social situations to avoid eating. To avoid getting dressed. To avoid judgment and shame.

I am hoping to change myself.

So to the woman who loathes her hips, hates her ass, or abhors her “thick thighs,” her flat chest, or her full breasts. To the woman who wants to lose 15 pounds before summer, or wishes she could bulk up her waifish figure. And to the woman yearning for her pre-pregnancy body — yearning for a smoother stomach, a flatter stomach, or a stomach without stretch marks (a body without stretch marks) — I say this: You are beautiful.

I know you may not see it, I know you probably don’t feel it, and I know you may never hear those words — “you are beautiful” — but you are. Because beauty isn’t a size or a shape. It isn’t the clothes you wear, and it has nothing to do with your makeup, your weight, or even your hair. Beauty is authenticity. Beauty is strength. Beauty is confidence. Beauty is being you.

Even when you aren’t “at your best.”

Even when you are covered in spit-up and sour milk.

Even when you are unshowered and sweaty.

And when you’re wearing old, worn-out clothes.

And even when you are an exhausted and disheveled mess.

So wear your weight, your tattered and ill-fitting pants, and that sour milk stain as a badge of honor. Wear them as badges of courage. Because you are amazing. You are beautiful. You are “perfect.” You are enough.

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